By Jamie McCoy, Baltimore intern
After reading the recent Baltimore Sun article about the Sylvan Beach Foundation and its ice cream store in Mount Washington (left), I was inspired. After all, I’m a college kid surrounded by idealistic peers who are hoping to do one of two things: go into business, make lots of money, and retire by age 35; or just vaguely “change the world.” And here, with Sylvan Beach, Sean Smeeton is succeeding by combining elements of each.
His vision, which he shares with co-worker and CEO-in-training Carroll Skipwith, is to use business as a way to solve social problems in urban neighborhoods. Many urban kids dream of being basketball stars or rappers, he explains, but it would be far more practical and realistic for these kids to aspire to be business leaders.
So, Smeeton started an ice cream business, and began to hire kids from difficult backgrounds who show potential. “Most businesses,” he explains, “are created to solve some type of problem. This company solves a social problem.” He hopes it will inspire other businessmen and women to do the same, to use their companies for more than just making money. Just as it is becoming more and more popular to be environmentally conscious, Smeeton hopes that social consciousness will also become more popular.
Sylvan Beach is also planning to start an entrepreneurial school in the near future. Skipwith explained that they are “still in the planning phases, but the idea should get off the ground within the next 18 months.” This school would be for young urban kids who are uninterested in traditional school, and it would put them on a business-oriented path.
Smeeton and Skipwith are both very clear about one thing: Sylvan Beach is not a program, it is a company. It is a legitimate source of education and employment for urban kids with potential.
Oh—and it’s going to change the world. For some people, it already has.